By: Ken Kelly, President, Kelly Roofing, Naples, FL

kelly_tile_roofIn the tile roofing industry there are a lot of warranty games being played. In order to understand the importance of tile roof warranties we must first understand tile roofs. Tile is the most popular roofing material worldwide. In almost every other climate in the world tile is placed on batten rafters, without underlayment and then top flashed with precision and craftsmanship. In the United States, tile’s value and pricing have been driven down by shortages in skilled installers and asphaltic look alike products. Unfortunately, manufacturers and industry leaders have lobbied code officials to lessen installation specifications in order to complete in track home building environments. These actions resulted in different “systems”. System 1, 2 and then later 3 were created as a way to guide installation and allow less expensive systems. This is also when specialty Underlayments were introduced. The idea is that when top flashing details were sacrificed water would run under the tile and the underlayment would protect the building from seepage. Thus an increased importance was placed on tile roof system’s underlayment warranty. Since the early 1990’s when system changes were made many upgrades to underlayments were made. One thing remains constant however, the increased reliance on the underlayment as a waterproofing material, thus increasing the importance of that underlayment’s warranty coverage. This is where the importance of understanding what the underlayment’s true warranty is since your building’s contents will most likely rely upon it.

Material Coverage

A roofer’s quote may include language such as, “30-Year warranty on underlayment” or simply “30-year warranty”. This is most likely a material only warranty and covers only manufacturer’s defects. In the event of a defect the manufacturer will only supply enough material to cover the affected area leaving you with the bill to remove tiles, remove the other material, install the new material and reinstall the tiles, which is the far majority of the repair expense. Basically, you will be paying for the entire repair or even the entire roof in the event of a failure.

Material & Labor Coverage

Similarly to Material Coverage, this warranty only covers a manufacturer’s defect. The big advantage is it also covers the labor, not just materials, to repair the affected area or entire roof. This warranty is literally 10X a better warranty in coverage. You will often find this warranty to be at a lesser time frame and may require special materials, certified contractors and even inspections by the manufacturer. Only a few contractors can offer this warranty and you will know by the roof’s price who they are.

Workmanship Coverage

Workmanship coverage comes from the installing contractor. Currently there are no underlayment or tile manufacturers who back a roofer’s workmanship and carry what the industry calls an NDL or No Dollar Limit warranty for materials, labor and installation defects. Therefore this becomes the roof’s true warranty. If the roof is installed correctly it should perform for decades with sensible care and maintenance. When considering the importance of this warranty think of two details. First, the contractor. Pick a contractor you trust, has a great track record and shows they care. Second, consider installing upgraded top flashings to protect the underlayment. This is how tile roofs are installed worldwide and should be installed here. If a roofer says you don’t need the top flashing what they are really saying is they don’t have the technically proficient installers to do the work. Look elsewhere, even if it costs a few extra dollars. There is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars on a new tile roof only to require replacing it a few years later do to improper installation.

Prorated Coverage

Material, Material & Labor and Workmanship Coverage’s may have proration periods. For example, the most popular tile underlayments claim they come with a 30-year warranty. The truth is that this warranty is a material only warranty and is only 100% effective for the first 5 or maybe 10 years. After that the coverage diminishes greatly over time until it is only worth 10% of the material price by year 30 and is only enforceable if a manufacturer’s warranty causes a leak with proper maintenance and upkeep.

To help prevent water intrusion Kelly Roofing always recommends installing top flashings in the traditional fashion to limit the reliance on the underlayment as the primary form of waterproofing.